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A Guide To Using Polarising Filters

A Guide To Using Polarising Filters  - What are polarising filters and how do they work? Have a read of this article to find out more.

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General Photography

Digital photography enables us to recreate most filters effects that we used to produce using optical attachments on our cameras. But there's one filter that should still be in every photographer's gadget bag and that's a polarising filter. A genuine polarising filter can have a dramatic effect on your photographs, but it won't ruin them.



Above: Taken with no filter. Below: Polarising filter used to deepen the blue of the sky and to improve the overall clarity of the shot. 



How They Work
Polarising filters work by suppressing surface reflections from non-metallic objects, by blocking the rays. The amount of suppression depends on the angle of the reflected light, the rotation of the filter and the amount of polarisation. You also see an increase in colour saturation, as the glare caused by the surface reflections often lightens the subject.

Photos of non-metallic surfaces aren't the only subjects that benefit from the use of a polariser. Light reflected from water and glass is also polarised and using a polariser enables the photographer to see through the glass or water.

The classic effect a polarising filter has on the sky. In the image to the right, the left side is a non-polarised photograph and the right side, with a polariser attached. Notice the saturation in the sky, making it vivid blue, but also the improved detail in the grass and building, that give the picture more clarity.


How They Attach 
There are various types of polarising filter. Precut and mounted versions, made by the likes Cokin, slot into a filter holder and mount onto the front of the lens. Another option is the round type that has a sheet of polarising material sandwiched between two pieces of optical glass. The screw-in variety has a rotating front ring so you can adjust the filter while looking through the viewfinder until the reflections are reduced. The holder variety is usually round and can be rotated in the holder.


Which Shape? 
Linear or circular? Square or round? Take a look at our polarising filters buyers' guide for what filter will be best for you. 

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